With modern cities turning into concrete jungles, it is inevitable to lose sight of the overpowering structures with glass facades spearing into the blue skies. Most of the time, onlookers tend to believe that buildings are permanent fixtures in the settings of a vicinity. However, like everything else, they too come with an expiry date and go through various stages of a lifecycle. 


From the early years, ranging from 1-15 years, the building is constructed and used by the first owner with a limited maintenance budget, which starts increasing over time. In the second stage of 16-30 years, the building needs complete overhauling to replace the deteriorating systems. In the third stage of 31-49 years, more expensive asset renewal projects are undertaken. At 50 years, the building, which is now too old, comes back to the second stage of renovation to keep standing for another 10-15 years. 


All structures need regular upkeep, maintenance, and renovation to keep their foundations strong. The lifespan of a commercial building on average ranges from 50 to 60 years and can go further depending on the preservation techniques employed by the owner and the way the building is utilized.



Every structure is unique, and its endurance depends on its build quality and maintenance management. For example, box retail stores have a very short lifespan of a few years, as they are designed to be taken apart when the new owner moves in. Most commercial buildings need an overhaul after 20 or more years to keep going strong.


There are many external factors that affect the lifespan of a building, such as upgrades, usage, expansion plans, and much more. Following are a few of the big ones.




To make a building last up to 50 years or more, long-term maintenance plans should be in place which will protect the investor’s asset. This means that the owner should not wait for wear and tear to affect the building; instead take charge and get the renovation work done proactively every few years. Continuous inspection of the structure in all aspects, ranging from electrical and mechanical parts to garden grooming and wall paint, helps to make accurate predictions about upcoming upgrades. The owner or the tenant needs to set a budget aside for the maintenance work so that it is not neglected. This helps in enhancing the longevity and prolonging the serviceability of the premises. Additionally, the value of the building goes up, which eventually generates high returns on investment for the owner.


External environment



The location of the construction has a significant effect on a building. Pollution and climate hazards like storms, harsh sunlight, heavy rainfall and snow take a toll on the structure over the years. Extreme winter weather conditions expose buildings and structures to conditions not typically encountered during the remainder of the year and can create maintenance challenges. It is important to be aware of warning signs of the developing or ongoing issues to promptly mitigate these issues, as early detection and attention often equates to less costly repairs.


Internal Factors



Moisture in the internal air can lead to the growth of mold and fungi that can weaken the foundations of the building. Extreme humidity in the closed environment can lead to corrosion and condensation that may cause roof leaks and cracks in the walls. Faulty plumbing can lead to seepage and moisture laden walls. Excessive heat in the building can also have its share of consequences such as swelling, distortion, cracking of materials and components. Sometimes, a faulty design of the structure at the time of construction can cause disasters such as inadequate room for expansion and contraction, poor jointing, neglected weathering, the absence of proper drainage, and more.





The lifespan of the building is also dependent on the volume of occupancy and its time period. If all the floors are further divided into sections to be filled up by more and more businesses as tenants, it will cover every nook and corner of the edifice. Maximum utilization and usage of resources can lead to quicker wear and tear and a shorter lifespan. In addition, if the building is in use 24/7, it will be more susceptible to damage than one primarily used five days a week between the official schedule of 9 to 5. The office hours timetable gives some breathing space to the building and gap to save on daily energy consumption. There are many other ways of saving energy for commercial buildings which must be undertaken to reduce operational costs that can be utilized for repair work.





There are a substantial number of installations in a building including mechanical and electrical, the HVAC systems, elevators, firefighting equipment, garbage disposal, sewage disposal, water pipes, and a plethora of other machines. These systems embedded in the structure are not meant to last a lifetime. They survive to their full capacity of 5-7 years and then start giving problems like cracks in pipes, breakage of wires, and more. These installations need to be repaired and replaced after a few years to increase the life expectancy of the commercial property.


In Conclusion


Every building has a lifespan that it will reach. Besides paying attention to the design and outward appearance of the construction, the investor of commercial property should investigate all the other aspects mentioned above to make it last longer.


MEet the author


Kevin Werner has been with Shingobee since December 2020 and recently became Vice President in charge of the St. Cloud office. With over 20 years of progressive construction industry background focused on promoting and maintaining client relationships, Kevin is recognized for his adaptive leadership and team building aptitude. His variety of project experience stretches across multiple construction categories and sizes. Many of his projects incorporated high-profile stakeholder involvement and compliance, such as the U.S. Department of Justice, Indigenous groups, and Army Corps of Engineers.